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Fritz Benscher BuchMeyer, Beate: Fritz Benscher. Ein Holocaust-Überlebender als Rundfunk- und Fernsehstar in der Bundesrepublik, Göttingen − Wallstein 2017

Jew, concentration camp survivor, Hamburg native in Bavaria, yet still a favorite of the public: the actor and quizmaster Fritz Benscher. “Unfortunately, the ‘Fuehrer’ didn’t like me very much.” This is how Fritz Benscher (1904–1970) describes the years following 1933 and his imprisonment in the concentration camps of Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, and Dachau. He was finally liberated in Allach on May 1, 1945.

During the Weimar Republic, Benscher gained his first experience in theater and with the still novel radio. After the liberation, he was senior director of Radio Munich, which later became the Bayerischer Rundfunk (Bavarian Broadcasting). He dedicated himself to reeducating his fellow countrymen with his acerbic wit and revelations of Nazi crimes. Later he staunchly fought against rearmament despite the prohibitions against speaking and other sanctions imposed on him. Although many took offense at his contributions, most of his listeners loved him. He continued his television career with undiminished success in the 1960s as a moderator, quizmaster, and actor.

Beate Meyer, a research assistant of many years’ standing at the Institute for the History of the German Jews in Hamburg, recounts Fritz Benscher’s life knowledgeably and in great detail. For this purpose, she analyzed a many newspaper articles and archived materials, also talking to companions of Fritz Benscher. This produced an easily readable, stimulating book on an extraordinary entertainer, while providing en passant a history of the beginnings of radio and television in the Federal Republic of Germany.

 

Zeitschrift Konzentrationslager Heft 2Eschebach, Insa; Hammermann, Gabriele; Rahe, Thomas (eds.): Repatriierung in Europa 1945. Berlin − Metropol 2016 (=Konzentrationslager. Studien zur Geschichte des NS-Terrors, Vol. 2)

The repatriation of liberated concentration camp inmates, prisoners of war, and forced laborers was a complex process closely related to several historic developments during the period immediately following the war. This applies, for instance, to the subsequent history of the liberated camps, the history of displaced persons and the camps established for them in the East and the West, to the exodus and migration in the period immediately following the war, or to the East-West conflict, which soon escalated to become the Cold War.

The national contexts of the repatriations in the early days of the Cold War have only recently begun to receive the attention of historical research. The second issue of the journal “Konzentrationslager. Studien zur Geschichte des NS-Terrors” (“Concentration Camps. Studies on the history of the Nazi terror”) takes up the return of former concentration camp inmates, political prisoners, and forced laborers to their homelands in Western, Eastern, or Southern Europe, which was largely organized, but also frequently accomplished on their own initiative. The focus of the articles collected here is on the repatriation of the men and women liberated from Nazi camps.

The respective articles not only look at organizational and political questions of the repatriations and the agencies involved, but also at the fates of individual groups of liberated concentration camp inmates. Both the situations in the specific camps after their liberation as well as in the countries to which the survivors returned are examined. In the process, it becomes clear that they could by no means count on being received “with open arms”. Instead, they were often met with disapproval, up to and including open hostility. Most of the individual articles methodically pursue a biographical approach, which also gives contemporary witnesses a chance to speak. The issue is rounded off by two articles, one on the building history of the concentration camps, and the other on the changes in discussions of war guilt in present-day German commemorative culture. Thanks to the in-depth researching of its sources, this volume brings to light many new details on an important topic of the period immediately following the war.